The Seattle Mariners have announced they have traded for OF Teoscar Hernández from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for RHP reliever Erik Swanson and LHP prospect Adam Macko.
You may remember Hernández from his most recent work: attempting to single-handedly will the Blue Jays through the AL Wild Card round with a multi-homer effort off Robbie Ray that by rights should have buried the M’s.
That series may have solidified the impetus for this trade in the eyes of Canada’s team, of course, as their bullpen collapsed like a flan in a cupboard. Adding Swanson, coming off a career year with a 1.68 ERA and huge spike to a 34% strikeout rate on the back of significant improvements to both his splitter and slider, is a solid way to give their pen some more length. Seattle will miss not only Swanson’s general excellence over the next three years he will be in arbitration potentially under contract with Toronto, but his acuity with subduing left-handed hitters. Macko has brilliant stuff and is one of the most dynamic arms in Seattle’s system, however his size and consistent health issues have waylaid his development thus far, and he is likely to find his route ultimately as a power relief arm. He’s around the 8-15 range of Seattle’s system in my estimation, with higher upside if things align extremely well a la Matt Brash, but also extreme risk to never make the bigs at all.
Still, it’s easy to see why Seattle was willing to deal from the depth of their bullpen to add a player of Hernández’s caliber, who was an All-Star in 2021 and has a pair of Silver Slugger Awards in his trophy case. The man who technically may have a World Series ring from the 2017 Houston Astros due to the one game he played with them as a defensive replacement before being traded to Toronto has blossomed into a monster at the plate north of the border. The freshly 30-year-old has run a wRC+ of 132 with a .283/.333/.519 line over the past three seasons, with some of the highest exit velocities in all of baseball to ensure when he makes contact, good things happen. As a righty hitter, Hernández is an elite hitter against lefties with a 140 wRC+, while still quite solid against righty pitchers at 112.
It is interesting to see Seattle target Teoscar, who is eligible for free agency after 2023, as he is in many ways the inversion of Jesse Winker, who was the intended centerpiece of their offensive upgrades last winter. Both players are among the best hitters in the league against their given platoon advantage, while offering more dubious defensive skills. To Hernández’s credit, the Cotui, Dominican Republic native is quite fleet of foot, and not in the same category generally as Winker defensively, but he is not typically regarded as a top notch outfielder in either corner. His -5 Outs Above Average between LF and RF last year are in line with career numbers as a below-average-but-not-brutal glove.
The upshot is that Hernández can absolutely mash, and should hopefully bring length to the Mariners lineup much as he has for a terrifying Toronto row for several years. While he’s eligible for free agency after this season, Seattle could extend him or at minimum extend a qualifying offer if he has another campaign in line with his recent production. The acquisition of an excellent righty bat projected for a 121 wRC+ next season does not preclude the return of Mitch Haniger, but it does seem to preclude further additions.
Compared to other free agent options, $14 million and a couple relievers is a satisfactory cost in my mind out of what Seattle’s likely budget constraints will be for themselves is extremely reasonable, as Hernández would likely be the clear third-best OF on the market behind Aaron Judge and Brandon Nimmo. So long as this helps the M’s focus on acquiring one of the big fish shortstops/second basemen, this is a great start to the off-season.